Since being vacated by its tenant unit in February, the National Guard Armory on Memorial Drive in Merrill may appear abandoned or desolate to the naked eye.
According to Captain Joe Trovato, Wisconsin Army National Guard Director of Public Affairs, the armory in fact remains very active.
Prior to February the building was occupied by the 58-member 32nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, Headquarters Company Detachment I.
However, as part of the US Army’s unit reorganization initiative, the Merrill detachment was consolidated with Detachment II in Wausau, with the last drill date for Merrill soldiers being held in November 2014.
According to a press release from the Department of Military Affairs, “The reorganization allows several units currently spread out in multiple locations across the state, to consolidate operations in fewer locations, to improve command and control of the unit, unit cohesion, efficiencies and accountability.”
The reorganization is also due in part to changes in the structure of the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
The brigade combat team’s 32nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, located in Wausau and Merrill, was transformed into the newly created 173rd Brigade Engineer Battalion upon the consolidation at the Wausau Armory.
The 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team’s reorganization also included the addition of a new artillery battery, and a downsizing of the 132nd Brigade Support Battalion.
Upon completion of the consolidation, the armory now serves as a drill and training center as part of the National Guard’s Recruit Sustainment Program (RSP).
“RSP educates new recruits in basic Army knowledge prior to engaging in basic training or Advanced Individualized Training. In some cases, recruits have completed training and are awaiting assignment to their permanent units,” Trovato said.
While the number of recruits at the armory at any given time may fluctuate, he estimates 80-100 recruits visit the Merrill facility one weekend a month, every month.
“RSP designates drill location based on a recruit’s geographical area. A majority of the recruits drilling in Merrill reside in the Merrill area or close by,” Trovato adds.
During their stay at the Merrill armory, recruits will engage in a variety of activities meant to develop and sharpen their knowledge base such as drill and ceremony, weapon break down and maintenance and other basic military functions and customs.
At the present time Trovato indicates there are no plans in place to close the building.